Sunday, October 02, 2005

Introduction: Why the Blog?

It is my belief that the biodiesel industry will benefit from the open sharing of knowledge. I started this blog in furtherance of that goal. I hope that the information I share on this blog will be useful to the reader and will help accelerate the growth of this crucially important emerging industry. It goes without saying that the United States is in desperate need of domestically produced, clean, renewable fuels. We are a transportation dependent society, and we need appropriate fuels for our transportation needs. I can think of no fuel better positioned to fill this need than biodiesel. That said, biodiesel is not a silver bullet. Rather, biodiesel is a partial solution to an enormous and complex problem that will ultimately require a multiple, or poly, fuel solution. Fuels like ethanol, electricity, and hopefully someday hydrogen made from renewable sources, all contributing.

Why do I believe sharing knowledge is a key to industry growth?

I am a product of the west coast and particularly Northern California. I had the good fortune to work at Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma and at Venture Law Group in Silicon Valley. Wine and high tech are two of California’s most important industries. They achieved this status by becoming centers of excellence. The community of people that made up those industries in the early years did not see each other as competitors, but rather as partners with the same goal of growing their emerging industry. They were not interesting is fighting over a small pie. They chose to work together to grow the pie for themselves and for all those who would come after them, thus creating the centers of excellence in Northern California wine and high tech that we know today.

It is not clear to me that the biodiesel industry shares this ethos. I often run into people in the biodiesel industry who are very defensive, reluctant to share their knowledge, and hostile. This does not serve those individuals well, nor does it serve the industry well. Somehow they feel threatened that if they share what they know that they will be harmed. Exactly the opposite is true, by not sharing, they harm themselves. Unfortunately, they harm the rest us as well.

This blog will attempt to be an antidote to such information hoarders and non-cooperators. With this blog, I will attempt in my own little way to foster an environment of trust and sharing. I hope you will join me on this journey.

Your fellow biodiesel traveler,

Eric

9 comments:

The Propel Project said...

Great thoughts. Glad to have a another voice in the biodiesel blog world.

-Rob
Propel Fuels

Eric Bowen said...

Thanks Rob. Just out of curiousity, how did you find my blog? I have not put out the word yet. Hope to do so soon.

The Propel Project said...

Technorati subject blog search- of course ;)

I'm interested in your thoughts about VC and energy investments, biodiesel specifically.

I'm not seeing a role for tech specific VC firms in this business. Considering the returns they promise, the fun times that created the past VC environment, and the realities going forward. What was the VC environment at the real beginning of the technology revolution (say 1970-1985?). Energy investments require new thinking. Tech VC's will be marginalized IMHO. Change is good.

Thoughts? What role do VC's have competing against energy project financing?

Jason Younker said...

Yes, it is good to see another biodiesel blogger (especially one with the experience that you have).

I've added your newsfeed to SharpReader. Looking forward to additional articles and perspectives from you.

Jason Younker
Alternative Fuels Awareness Organization
http://www.iE85.com/

Eric Bowen said...

Jason,

Thank you for the kind words.

Eric

Eric Bowen said...

Rob,

I agree with you, biodiesel production does not provide venture capital returns and thus will not, as a general rule, attract venture capital. That said, I am aware of one venture capital firm that has made an investment in a biodiesel plant. It was a small investment, $250,000, and was made to "keep an eye on the industry." I do not think we will see a lot of that type of investing.

I do think venture capital can play a role in funding next-generation feedstocks. It would be good for the industry to attract such capital, but to date, I have only seen one such investment, Access Industries investment in GreenFuel, http://www.greenfuelonline.com/.

Eric

Jason Younker said...

I believe that there is more of a role in VC than might otherwise believe. There are what, 45 biodiesel plants currently (mostly very small scale), but 50 plants that are currently in some phase of coming online. I would be very surprised if VC didn't have some role to play in those 50 some plants.

Biodiesel in the US is still in its infancy and with dino-diesel increasing in price so much in the last year (over $1/gal) that will make biodiesel a much more attractive option for the mainstream user (trucking and other industrial aspects) where bottomline is king. With biodiesel being in some cases, less expensive than dino-diesel, more and more VC will be directed towards infrastructure development.

Rumin said...

Thank You Eric for sharing your knowledge on Biodiesel - the more we know the more we can grow.

- Rumin

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